Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Wilson Cary Nicholas, 31 May 1803

From Wilson Cary Nicholas

Lexington May 31. 1803

Dear Sir

I had not the pleasure of receiving your favour of the 22d. of Apl. until the day before yesterday. Be pleased Sir to accept my most cordial thanks for the very friendly attention that you have paid to my letter, asking an appointment for the son of my brother and be assured that I wou’d not in his case, or any other propose any person to you for an office, where I believed there was a possibility of injury to the public service, or that the appointment wou’d give justifiable ground of dissatisfaction in any part of this State. Since I came here I have taken pains to inform my self as to the character and qualifications of R. C. Nicholas. I can now inform you that he is a man of unquestionable good character as to morals, and I think possesses an excellent understanding. I have endeavoured to ascertain the opinion that is entertained of him by the respectable part of the people in this State who know him, I believe they woud subscribe to the character that I have given of him. I have lately read the missisipi law and attended particularly to the duties assigned to the different officers that are to be appointed under it, and feel a full confidence that R.C.N. is competent to discharge all the duties assigned to the commissioner, with credit to himself and advantage to the public and individuals who are interested. When I ask this office for my nephew I beg you to be assured, I neither wish nor expect that he shou’d receive the appointment, if any other persons shou’d be in nomination for it, of superior qualifications. I have taken great pains to ascertain the real feelings of the people here about the New Orleans business, it is with great pleasure that I assure you that a vast majority of the people are perfectly satisfied with the measures that you have taken, but there is a general opinion that the restoration of the right of deposit only, will be very far short of what their interest requires and they most anxiously hope that their rights will be enlarged in some way or other. you will no doubt see in a Frankfort paper a most infamous letter from T. Davis to the people of this state. I expect to leave this place for virginia in two days.

I am Dear Sir with the greatest respect Your friend & humble Servant

W. C. Nicholas

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ “Nicholas Rob. C. to be Commr. Missipi” and so recorded in SJL at 14 June. Enclosures: (1) Joseph H. Daveiss to Wilson Cary Nicholas, Lexington, 27 May, endorsing Robert Carter Nicholas, a personal acquaintance, as a man of integrity, “very clear understanding,” and a remarkable “power of judgment” (RC in same). (2) Recommendation by Harry Innes, 30 May, noting that for over a decade he was a friend of the late George Nicholas; he has formed an opinion of the talents of his children and considers R. C. Nicholas “a young man of strict integrity & possessing strong mental faculties & great firmness” (MS in same; in Innes’s hand and signed by him). (3) Certificate of Thomas Todd, 30 May 1803, acknowledging his “great intimacy” with the family of George Nicholas since 1789 and certifying that the eldest son, R. C. Nicholas, “has ever been considered as a young man of strict integrity, possessing strong mental faculties & great firmness” (MS in same; in Todd’s hand and signed by him). (4) John A. Seitz and James Morrison to W. C. Nicholas, 31 May 1803; in response to Nicholas’s inquiries, the bankruptcy commissioners, without hesitation, recommend R. C. Nicholas as a “Gentleman possessed of Considerable talents, a sound & correct Judgment & unquestionable integrity”; any position he consents to hold will be executed “to the satisfaction of his friends & to his own credit” (RC in same, perhaps in Morrison’s hand, signed by both; Vol. 37:402).

opinion that is entertained of him: Nicholas probably enclosed in this letter the testimonies in favor of his nephew described above. TJ received one other recommendation, dated 12 June and signed by Kentucky judges George Muter, Benjamin Sebastian, and Caleb Wallace. It certified that Robert C. Nicholas was “generally considered as a young man of strict integrity, possessing strong mental faculties & great firmness” (MS in DNA: RG 59, LAR, in an unidentified hand, signed by all; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , 1:239n; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , 4:252n; 7:93n).

infamous letter: in a 15 May letter to his Kentucky constituents, Thomas T. Davis announced his retirement from elected office. In his review of events of the last session of Congress, Davis expressed his displeasure with the administration’s handling of the closure of the right of deposit at New Orleans. He did not favor sending an envoy to Europe, declaring that “a weak nation must beg for its rights but a strong one ought to demand them.” He thought the closure was an act of the Spanish court, not of the local intendant, and that U.S. troops should have been immediately dispatched to take possession of the port. If the intendant was responsible for the action, Davis argued, the court of Spain could not blame the U.S. for resisting “with manly firmness, any unauthorised aggression on our national rights.” If it was an act of the Spanish court, the U.S. had a duty to protect its “citizens in the enjoyment of a right secured to them by treaty.” Davis asserted that New Orleans “and the adjacent country must belong to the United States, or the fruit of the people in the western country will always be in the power of the foreign nation holding that port.” The U.S. Treasury “could well afford the support of the army necessary to conquer the country, and western men a plenty would execute the enterprise.” If the French gained possession of that country, Davis protested, hopes of the U.S. ever obtaining it were very faint. He concluded: “I believe we have let the golden opportunity pass by, without reaping the benefits it offered us.” At the next election, Davis hoped Kentucky would elect “independent men” who would firmly contend for the rights of the western people and “view with becoming jealousy the growing influence of the great states of New-York and Virginia.” Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser reprinted Davis’s letter from the Frankfort Palladium on 20 June.

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